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Ask Slashdot: How To Reimagine a Library?

timothy posted about 8 months ago | from the over-here-we'd-have-the-spelling-machines dept.

Education 231

dptalia writes "I'm part of a team tasked with re-imagining my local elementary school's library. Libraries, especially school libraries, are struggling to remain relevant in today's world, when so much reading and research can be done from home. But this school has mostly low-income students who don't have the sort of high-tech resources at home that we all take for granted. What ideas do you have to turn an elementary school library into an environment that fosters innovation and technology?"

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more than books (4, Insightful)

schneidafunk (795759) | about 8 months ago | (#46049065)

Lend out tools, toys, computers, and other things. The grand idea should be for people to learn for free.

Re:more than books (2)

ackthpt (218170) | about 8 months ago | (#46049279)

Lend out tools, toys, computers, and other things. The grand idea should be for people to learn for free.

"Hi, I'd like to check out a car, so I can learn how to drive."

Re:more than books (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049333)

Hi. I'd like to check out yo mama, so I can learn the finer points of the Kama Sutra.

Re:more than books (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049631)

Hi. I'd like to check out yo mama, so I can learn the finer points of the Kama Sutra.

Fail.

Re:more than books (5, Interesting)

sneakyimp (1161443) | about 8 months ago | (#46049313)

Cheap desktop computers running free operating systems. You can install Ubuntu or some other *nix distro free on pretty much any old used computer.

WiFi access. I would imagine that your internet bill will likely be your biggest long-term expense. You can get some pretty awesome consumer routers, install DD-WRT on them or tomato USB or whatever) and get some pretty fancy functionality. I've been eyeing this one [newegg.com] .

And maybe the most affordable ebook readers or tablets for checkout. You might get a sponsorship from Google or Amazon -- they are all too anxious to rope people into their ebook ecosystems. I would try to avoid these book ecosystems for cost reasons. You can also get all kinds of amazing old books through project gutenberg [gutenberg.org] . Maybe OLPC would have a suitable device?

You might also keep some physical books of historical interest or perhaps large maps or other visually oriented works that resist digitization.

Re:more than books (2)

Joce640k (829181) | about 8 months ago | (#46049465)

Lend out tools, toys, computers, and other things. The grand idea should be for people to learn for free.

Watch this: http://blog.ted.com/2008/03/18... [ted.com]

Re:more than books (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049817)

Absolutely. Library => Hackerspace with lots of reference materials is a transition that just makes sense to me ...

Re:more than books (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46050021)

Lend out tools, toys, computers, and other things. The grand idea should be for people to learn for free.

Would that be something like: NoiseBridge [noisebridge.net] ?

Re:more than books (1)

Spazmania (174582) | about 8 months ago | (#46050211)

It isn't the library's job to foster innovation and technology. That's a good thing to do but it's not what the library is for. The library's job is to make knowledge and culture accessible to its patrons. Play at being an innovation center and you'll surrender the library's task to the Internet.

So, here's an easy one: stock some of the popular Japanese graphic novels. If the shelf space in Barnes & Noble is to be believed, the kids *want* these. But stock the ones in Japanese, maybe including the English translation, maybe not. And buy the Rosetta Stone software for Japanese and install it on one of the library computers so that any kid who wants to learn to read the novels...

Re:more than books (2)

Ichijo (607641) | about 8 months ago | (#46050305)

Lend out tools, toys, computers, and other things.

And musical instruments, seeds, cake pans, 3D printers, and slide/negative scanners [wikipedia.org] . And make heavy use of the inter-library loan system to increase the number of titles available and/or reduce the physical size of your library.

Make sure the have basic English reading skills. (3, Insightful)

Ukab the Great (87152) | about 8 months ago | (#46049073)

Then worry about technology.

Re:Make sure the have basic English reading skills (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049349)

Mak sur you no howw too type b4 posten bout inglish skilz.

Re:Make sure the have basic English reading skills (1)

Ukab the Great (87152) | about 8 months ago | (#46049407)

touché.

Re:Make sure the have basic English reading skills (5, Insightful)

cnkurzke (920042) | about 8 months ago | (#46049583)

I honestly think you need to explain to the students the value of "reading pre-curated knowledge" from established experts (aka books) versus random one-off drivel on the screen (which includes comments on slashdot)

Too many times people think in a post-wikipedia world "real books" are outdated.

Re:Make sure the have basic English reading skills (1)

rk (6314) | about 8 months ago | (#46050169)

How is a book automatically granted the rank of pre-curated knowledge from established experts? Case in point: this [wikipedia.org] and this [wikipedia.org] .

Just because it gets put onto dead trees doesn't mean it's not drivel.

Re:Make sure the have basic English reading skills (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46050215)

I wouldn't worry much about technology even then. Not even this "innovation" thing, honestly.

What libraries do, have been doing for a few thousand years already, is preserve knowledge and make it accessible. Note how "innovation" is no part of that, though it can definitely benefit from knowledge, such as knowing what has been tried before.

So I would tell librarians to find ways, innovative ways if they must, to bring reader and knowledge together. That is what libraries should be about.

You don't do that with fifty flavours of version-bound program-screenshot books, or with so much other shoddy shelf filling crud you see in poorer (knowledge-wise) libraries. You don't do that with fancy (and expensive, and noisy) techno-toys and more such silliness. You don't do that with "innovation".

You do it by reaching out to the reader.

Name it something else... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049079)

What you want is a technology and innovation center, not a library.

Re:Name it something else... (0)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 8 months ago | (#46050207)

Yes, of course. Like vinyl records and CDs, libraries, books, and reading are outdated business models. School is run on outdated tactics; we refuse to treat education like a technology and instead will continue to run schools as they were run in medieval times for fear of breaking it, somehow. But we want to incorporate other technology into the existing framework and act like giving students laptops helps, somehow.

use POT (Personal Open Terminal) to be current (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049085)

imagine all of us & all of the libraries connected doing open honest communications & commerce 24/7?. now imagine not being connected at all or afraid to communicate the truth etc....? that would be terrifying?

Ask the Students? (4, Interesting)

ScottCooperDotNet (929575) | about 8 months ago | (#46049115)

We'll tell you to stock the shelves with Calvin and Hobbes, How Stuff Works type books, and dinosaur stuff. This may be some of what the boys want, but it can't hurt to actually ask all the students what they are interested in. Skip the card catalog, and encourage exploring.

Re:Ask the Students? (1)

sneakyimp (1161443) | about 8 months ago | (#46049339)

Don't forget The Anarchist's Cookbook.

Re:Ask the Students? (1)

next_ghost (1868792) | about 8 months ago | (#46049563)

Skip the card catalog, and encourage exploring.

Now that's an interesting idea. Get the kids to rediscover the library through a game where they create something that would make other kids interested in what the library has to offer. They'll probably start with the obvious - rating how interesting the books are and compiling a list of must-reads. But they should get more creative than that.

Wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049141)

So school libraries are generally becoming obsolete because students have high-tech resources at home to do reading and research. But your students don't have that. So how is your library in danger of becoming obsolete?

Re:Wait, what? (1)

next_ghost (1868792) | about 8 months ago | (#46049257)

So school libraries are generally becoming obsolete because students have high-tech resources at home to do reading and research. But your students don't have that. So how is your library in danger of becoming obsolete?

Because most of the skills that the students will learn in the library will be obsolete once they leave school. Library as a place of learning should strive to teach its students something that they can use for a long time.

Re:Wait, what? (2)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 8 months ago | (#46049309)

Doing research on the internet is different than in a physical library. Some aspects are transferable, others not. Using Wikipedia is different than using a encyclopedia. You want to teach the kids the skills of the future. That is how the library is becoming obsolete.

Redefine "Library" (2)

black6host (469985) | about 8 months ago | (#46049151)

Granted, I'm of the "get off my lawn" group so it's been a long time since I've been in a school library. If you want to foster technical knowledge and give these kids a chance to explore areas that are not otherwise available to them then put something in there besides books and computers for research. Like a maker space kind of set-up where kids have access to tools and supplies to actually create things. Look at the appeal of Legos, now make it a bit more technical. Might even foster the actual reading of books and on-line information in order for students to achieve their goals (which they probably don't even have at this point.)

Re:Redefine "Library" (4, Interesting)

rwa2 (4391) | about 8 months ago | (#46049691)

Yes... based on my university library, I'd actually break down a "library" into 4 distict sections, and size them appropriately: individual vs. group, and "unplugged" vs. tech.

Library as a cathedral of knowledge and meditation: (individual unplugged) : your "traditional" view of a library, where silence and sensory deprivation is enforced, stacks of books organized into sections, and isolated nooks and crannies with bean bags and desks for reading / study / sleeping. My most productive study space was a hard desk at the end of a stack in the basement of the engineering library.

Library as a tech center: Need to break out into individual "serious work-focused" computer stations, and collaborative conference rooms. The collaboration environments would need to be scheduled out, but have all the accoutrements of modern conference rooms: wifi, whiteboards (both smart and dumb), projectors, servers and client stations for LAN-parties, etc. But of course encase it in glass so they can be monitored.

Re:Redefine "Library" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049927)

Did you miss the part about this being an elementary school library?

Most visitors... (1, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | about 8 months ago | (#46049163)

Currently most visitors, who spend quite a bit of time actually, are taking advantage of the WiFi.

Seems the future of libraries is a clear, well lit place of of moderate comfort, where people can wirelessly browse anything electronically available, within or outside the library.

For those who insist upon seeing physical matter, there can be a climate controlled cellar where such things are stored.

Libraries as big edifices are becoming an anachronism.

Re:Most visitors... (4, Informative)

Whorhay (1319089) | about 8 months ago | (#46049469)

One of the things I kind of miss from going to the library is having a curated collection of books to peruse. When I try and find a good book to read on Amazon there is such an enormous collection of stuff that finding a new book is a serious challenge. When I was a kid I would just go to the relatively small section of the library and look through that. I could take a book off the shelf and read a few pages to see if it appealed at all. With online book stores I'm mostly left to buying books by authors I already know, exploring new authors is an fiscal gamble. So thus far I've bought very few ebooks, instead I've stuck to the public domain works.

Re:Most visitors... (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 8 months ago | (#46049741)

When I try and find a good book to read on Amazon there is such an enormous collection of stuff that finding a new book is a serious challenge.

Frozen by choice. I don't see why a decent size Library would be different, other than it would be harder to view ALL the choices as quickly.

The solution, quit being a douche and pick a book. IF you don't like it, don't pick anything like it in the future. If you use Amazon's ratings, they will get you more material you MIGHT like. Something a standard library completely fails at BTW.

And there are plenty of "free" books out there to read.

Not quite (3, Interesting)

iceperson (582205) | about 8 months ago | (#46049933)

While your educated upper middle class white guy probably doesn't see much use for a large library there are a lot of people that do.

I recommend you go to a small town library and see how it's being used. My wife is a librarian at our local library, and I'm always surprised how many people are there when I go in to see her. There are kids using meeting rooms for school projects, people using the computers to fill out applications for jobs, and there's always at least a few people interspersed between the racks just browsing or even sitting on the floor reading something they've found. The local knitters club meets there once a week and last I checked there were about a dozen volunteers for the literacy program teaching people to read at various times of day depending on when their "student" is available.

Fortunately, our community values our library so she gets a lot of local support, but I'm sure there are people in our community like yourself who see something that they don't/won't use as a giant waste or prime real estate or something...

Re:Not quite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46050165)

I'm in an urban area, and my local library gets a lot of use. I take the kids there pretty regularly, and it's always got a bunch of people there. Many are using the computers, but just as many are getting or reading books.

Re:Most visitors... (1)

jitterman (987991) | about 8 months ago | (#46050001)

My city (I live in a state capital) just demolished one of our older main branches to build one easily 3 times larger. The library is used a lot (you could not usually find an empty space in the lot on Saturdays, had to park a block from the building) by high school students from the north side of town (tend to be poorer, probably don't have as much access to technology, etc.), so I would say from anecdotal evidence that libraries still do have a large role to play in education, if nothing else.

My own kids love checking out books to read from their school library, and they both tend to get fiction and non-fiction alike, despite having the entire WWW (not to mention game consoles and handhelds) at their disposal. Again, this is just what I have witnessed personally, but libraries do seem to still be valued by many in the population despite all the alternatives.

Teach kids how to search for data (5, Insightful)

jmilne (121521) | about 8 months ago | (#46049169)

My own kids have this problem. They assume that if they type something into Google, they'll find what they need. The problem is, they don't know how to properly structure their queries so they find the relevant stuff quickly, so they end up wasting time just in the searching. Take the time to instruct the kids on how to structure a query in Google, and you'll save them a lot of time so they can actually complete their assignments quicker. Also, introduce them to other information sites like Wolfram Alpha or searching through a local newspaper database, so that they're aware that sites other than Wikipedia even exist.

Re:Teach kids how to search for data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049901)

They taught my class how to do that back in the 90's, when we were still using AltaVista and Lycos. It's still one of the most useful things I was ever taught - how to find other information more quickly.

Parental Involvement (2)

CyberSnyder (8122) | about 8 months ago | (#46049173)

Without that, it's really tough to get kids involved.

Re:Parental Involvement (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 8 months ago | (#46049295)

Without that, it's really tough to get kids involved.

And where are parents doing these days? Not at the library, I'll tell you that.

Re:Parental Involvement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46050319)

Without that, it's really tough to get kids involved.

And where are parents doing these days? Not at the library, I'll tell you that.

Clearly yours didn't help you.

Reimagined... (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 8 months ago | (#46049181)

You make the robots look more futuristic and swap the male lead role with a female.

Internet access (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049207)

Internet access first, and help with queries and how to use it, the help on how to search etc uses the same amount of librarian time as book lending so no difference in the staffing.
There is no point in anything else digital until that is done, but you don't exactly need top end machines for just internet....

Donated computers? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049209)

If all you want is Internet terminals, your community can handle that. I worked at a charity last year, and we were buried in computer donations. Most of them P4s and Core Duo, but never the less more than adequate for library use.

If the community is too poor even for that, check Goodwill and see if they can send some your way - they are being buried in this old shit too. They supposedly send the old equipment to DELL for "recycling" - whatever that really means. And I'm sure they are getting some compensation for it.

I REALLY hope Goodwill will spare a few computers. They are sure getting plenty of Government grants and if they don't, make noise.

Communal study spaces (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049213)

They need to realize they are now more of a communal study space than for people to get books. Less books, but keep the book shelves as dividers between study tables and study cubicles.There was a newly designed space that one of my cities libraries moved into, and I was so disappointed; they had racks and racks of nice looking shelves of books, and placed only one crappy area of study table (that's right, singular) on the side.

Digital Book Scanning Operation (3, Interesting)

jomama717 (779243) | about 8 months ago | (#46049223)

Get the kids involved in an ongoing operation whereby books are acquired, digitally scanned, and then re-donated to other schools/libraries/etc. Store the digital copies in some offsite database that can be shared amongst other schools/libraries/etc. Provide terminals where the students can peruse the scanned books and allow access to the digital library for students at home.

Can't think of a better way to keep a library as a place to learn new and relevant skills and be exposed to gobs of information and knowledge at the same time.

I'm sure this all falls apart when the copyright lawyers get involved, but I would love to see the publicity the publishers get when they sue a school library :)

Re:Digital Book Scanning Operation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049385)

Yeah...see the headlines now "School teaches criminal behaviour to children"

Should teach them lock picking too in case they get locked out at home, how to hot wire a car in case they loose their keys, how to use a knife and gun for "self defence".

Re:Digital Book Scanning Operation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049609)

Why the scare quotes? The use of a knife and/or gun for self defense is a skill that *most* people should have learned by the time they leave college. Admittedly, for most people, that skill will be as useful as calculus in their day to day lives, but unlike calculus, people don't generally get to decide *when* they'll be put in a situation where they need to use their self defense skills.

Re:Digital Book Scanning Operation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46050141)

Yeah...see the headlines now "School teaches criminal behaviour to children"

Should teach them lock picking too in case they get locked out at home, how to hot wire a car in case they loose their keys, how to use a knife and gun for "self defence".

Are you joking? Those should all be taught to any wonderful young person willing to actually learn something. There's no such thing as evil knowledge.

Fostering what now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049239)

A library should foster research and literacy. If you want to create a good learning environment, invest in comfortable chairs and tables, and make sure that the librarian (or other school staff) can monitor all seating areas to help maintain a quiet and relaxing environment. Also, buy more books.

Oh, and one or two computer workstations with internet access might be useful for research, I guess.

Online resources still have to be paid for (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049241)

Libraries have always flourished because they have provided low cost access to expensive information. Most people can't afford to buy every book or access every database they need to use. Just because you can access resources at home doesn't mean someone doesn't have to pay for them. Libraries mitigate the costs by sharing a limited resource among many users.

You don't want a library (1)

Ardyvee (2447206) | about 8 months ago | (#46049271)

You want a hackerspace instead. To me, a library is the place I go to learn the theory. It's a repository of knowledge. I go there to gather knowledge. Maybe even think on the knowledge. A library is not a place for experiments and manual work, which is the kind of thing that tends to be innovative or foster it (get kids interested in doing stuff). Unless, of course, you want innovations in mathematics or perhaps some kind of theoretical advance, in which case you want giant drawing boards, markers (or chalks) and put them all in a relatively private space (quieter than the library itself, and preferably without people looking at what you are doing unless you want them to).

Teach the students what a library is (4, Insightful)

Tiger4 (840741) | about 8 months ago | (#46049307)

The students presumably want to learn things. If they don't they will only go there if forced. So, first, you show them what a library is and how it is used to access information. The staff, catalog, the stacks, how to request materials, and most important What They Can Find in the Books (and recordings and videos, etc). Once they see it as a living tool that they know how to use, they will tell You how it should be better set up.

Re:Teach the students what a library is (2)

Tiger4 (840741) | about 8 months ago | (#46049399)

You might even consider something like a Treasure Hunt, where teams of students find pieces of knowledge in the library. The winner gets whatever prize is available

Re:Teach the students what a library is (1)

davecb (6526) | about 8 months ago | (#46049887)

Also get some selected magazines, preferably last-month's copy of some of the teachers' favourites. Grade-school kids are interested in what grown-ups think are important, and will sometimes dive into thing's you'd never expect.

Especially articles about dinosaurs, including some stuff that grownup might think is way too hard. I didn't know I was supposed to be stupid, so I read about dinos everywhere, and just skipped over stuff I didn't understand (:-))

A good thing to have is a back issue or two of "The Atlantic", preferably including one with a John Fallows airplane article. Yes, it's a highbrow mag for grownups, but I read airplane articles in everything when I was a kid. Dinosaurs in F16s!

--dave (channelling Calvin) c-b

Re:Teach the students what a library is (2)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 8 months ago | (#46050359)

Dinosaurs in F16s!

Actually, it was tyrannosaurs in F-14s. [slate.com] Yes, those are recognizable as F-14s, too. Watterson was an excellent draftsman with a good eye for detail.

Computer lab (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 8 months ago | (#46049359)

Have at least a handful of internet enabled computers, screens facing into the room, and a clearly posted policy of no games unless other computers are sitting unused. Not no games altogether though - help make the library a place where kids want to hang out. Obviously no speakers, and a bring-your-own headphone policy is probably most hygienic - earbuds pack small and functional ones can be had for a couple bucks anymore.

Desktop links obviously to include Wikipedia, Project Gutenberg, etc.
Possibly also PortableApps.com - if many don't have their own computer, point them at how they can at least have their own programs on whatever computer they do have access to.

This is Elementary School. (4, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 8 months ago | (#46049371)

Books! Really people their is nothing wrong with good old fashioned books! We are talking about little kids probably from the ages of 5 to 10 years old. Tools? Technology? Stories, adventure, science, and just fun books is what you need. Get the kids in love with the written word. Most of the ideas I am seeing target maybe the oldest age group but nothing for the majority of the age groups involved.

Re:This is Elementary School. (2)

swv3752 (187722) | about 8 months ago | (#46049593)

Yes! A standard library should b e just fine for an elementary school. Maybe have some computers which should run an educational linux system. http://www.linuxplanet.com/lin... [linuxplanet.com] has decent list. Don't bother with electronic gadgets like tablets and ebook readers, the kids will just break them.

Re:This is Elementary School. (4, Insightful)

RKThoadan (89437) | about 8 months ago | (#46049645)

Agreed. I'm reading through these and thinking that very little is applicable to my 2nd grader, who loves libraries (school and public) for the incredibly quaint reason of just checking out books. On the other hand, her school has a dedicated computer lab. She gets computer lab 1 day a week and library one day a week. She greatly prefers library day.

As far as I am concerned a library should foster a love of reading and imagination. "innovation and technology" are alright, but they aren't the most important things in the world.

Keep in mind that in general, half of elementary school is about learning to read. The transition from "learning to read" to "reading to learn" is generally around 3rd grade. There is definitely a case to be made for a more technology centered area in middle & high school, but I don't really think that is the case for elementary.

Re:This is Elementary School. (3, Interesting)

multimediavt (965608) | about 8 months ago | (#46049683)

Books! Really people their is nothing wrong with good old fashioned books! We are talking about little kids probably from the ages of 5 to 10 years old. Tools? Technology? Stories, adventure, science, and just fun books is what you need. Get the kids in love with the written word. Most of the ideas I am seeing target maybe the oldest age group but nothing for the majority of the age groups involved.

I am also in this camp having been in Higher Ed for the past 20 years. There is still a ridiculous amount of information that is NOT available anywhere but in books, depending on the subject. I would turn it into a reading library, perhaps, rather than a research library for most of the physical space. Current science and other research information is online so you will need a few computers with web access, but books still have a lot to offer. I would agree with a post above that said to skip the Dewey Decimal system. I'd suggest implementing a categorical keyword based shelving system, with titles alphabetized within the shelves. It's kind of like an analog Google search. They will still have to sift through false positives to find what they want. There are ways to "re-imagine" a library that make the skills relevant to what they would encounter in the digital world, while building up their literacy and critical thinking skills. It might be a good idea to work with other schools in the district to spread the load of purchasing books and rotate titles through the different schools every semester so each school gets access to the same titles.

Re:This is Elementary School. (4, Insightful)

ignavusinfo (883331) | about 8 months ago | (#46049775)

I was wondering when someone would mention books.

The other must have for a library is a librarian. Honestly, at the elementary school level libraries are no less relevant than they've ever been -- research is research and learning how to do it, even with a crappy old encyclopedia and out of date dictionary is a vital skill. So if your school's library is irrelevant it's time to find a new librarian because there's your problem.

Librarians are also pretty skilled at finding and purchasing the right materials, recommending age-appropriate books, fighting censorship, and -- at least when I was a kid -- being an non-teacher/non-parent adult confidant. Parents, even involved, educated ones, can't fill the same role.

What about kid librarians too? (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 8 months ago | (#46050227)

The other must have for a library is a librarian.

I agree that's important, the other thing I think would be really cool would be a few volunteer librarians also. They would act as active librarians helping other kids find things, and would get a few hours out of classes per week... they could be trained in the evening.

Basically a semi-kid run library might well be a resource more kids would use and find interesting.

Also I'd fold some AV resources into the library for kids to create digital media.

Re:This is Elementary School. (4, Insightful)

nbauman (624611) | about 8 months ago | (#46050273)

Good point. But you need a good librarian to run it.

Without a librarian, all you've got is a dumpster-full of books.

Some books are better for kids to read than others, and without a librarian, they're lost.

I used to go into the Donnell Library teenager's room in Manhattan, go to the 500s, and find a book shelf of every good math and science book I read or wanted to read in high school.

It takes a librarian to create a selection like that, where any book you pick up is interesting and worth reading.

When "libraries" depend on "donations" of books other people don't want (i.e. garbage), they get best-sellers of 10 and 20 years ago, Readers' Digest collections, old inspirational books, and manuals for Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect.

Over the last several decades, school librarians have been getting fired, and school libraries have been shut down because there was nobody to run them. The affluent neighborhoods have great libraries. The poor neighborhoods don't have them any more.

Ideas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049427)

Since we are imagining, I can see Smartboards and tablets, or pehaps e-book readers in the hands of the young ones. Buy an overhead projector or five. Maybe they get help checking out an ebook from the local library to use on the tablets or e-books you have on hand. They can give presentations using the Smartboard about their favorite season/sport/toy/technology/game. They can learn how to connect a laptop to projector, and show classmates how to find and play a favorite online game, maybe? Group research projects done in conjunction with librarians that involve an art project at the end. (What does science tell us about dinosaurs having feathers? What do you imagine those would look like?)

Hmmm .... (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 8 months ago | (#46049437)

So imagine a perfectly spherical, super-conducting library of infinite density ... oh, is that not what you meant? :-P

Computer lab and hackerspace (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049463)

Not sure to what extent considering the age group, but setting it up as a combo computer lab and hackerspace to get some hands on learning on a variety of subjects.

I Imagine (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049471)

I imagine stacks being replaced with lots of small cubicles with privacy doors on them.

I imagine that the back walls of the cubicles have a 5cm hole in it about 1 meter above the floor.

I imagine the cubicle on the opposite side has a kneeling bench along the wall where the hole is.

I imagine hushed moaning sounds permeating the new library.

I imaging a musky funky odor, not like books of old.

A good yarn (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049511)

We had no library at my first school. Three rooms for kindergarten to ninth grade. But my second school, starting in 4th grade had a very small one. What I remember most was the impact of stories I read in Argosy magazine. I later developed a taste for science fiction novels. It was after this that I really began to seek out non-fiction and especially history books to satisfy my imagination. I think you need a mix of good old fashioned stories, fiction, to instill a sense of curiosity and imagination and a selection of books for learning. If you can get a kid dreaming of big adventures and wild tales, you are seeding the ground for future growth and fascination with all the world around us.

NoooOOOoooo (4, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 8 months ago | (#46049517)

Don't, just don't.

You have already said these kids don't have a lot of technology available at home.

Well, turning this library into a tech haven will make it inaccessible to kids with weak tech skills. That's a disaster.

What you want is the library to be a place where kids get the basics. An introduction to technology that they will meet as they grow up should be part of it. But at the same time they should be able to interact with the library using the skills they have.

I betcha a lot of that will be good old fashioned books.

This is *easy*... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049533)

You just think of it being different. Poof! It's been reimagined!

I work for a public high school. Grades 6-12. (1)

waspleg (316038) | about 8 months ago | (#46049573)

Our Media Center has 33 desktops with internet connections. Those + the large Anime/Manga (this is limited to 9-12 graders) sections are by far the most utilized. It's also where you come to get issued a netbook (if you're eligible) or a graphing calculator or a required-for-a-class novel. Outside of these things it's used for testing, and tutoring (including after school).

Teachers have access to a BD/DVD and even, yes, VHS video section as well as borrowing blu-ray players, getting things laminated, and the ability to schedule the computer use (along with our 5 other labs).

The building I worked at previously was a "community school" which meant people could come in off the street to use it like a public library, those people were mostly interested in the computers for job searches or whatnot.

"low-income" = "non-white" - am I right? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049575)

Therefore, the solution to "turn an elementary school library into an environment that fosters innovation and technology" is to CHANGE THE STUDENTS TO WHITE ONES...
How 'racist' of me to point out the obvious.

Why are millions of non-whites moving into WHITE countries every year (against the wishes of the MAJORITY of white people), yet millions of white people aren't moving into non-white countries every year?

Could it possibly be because the non-whites are 'white supremacists' who believe that white people make BETTER countries than the third world shitholes the non-whites currently inhabit?

Any logical, rational rebuttals will be most welcome...

Re:"low-income" = "non-white" - am I right? (0)

atari2600a (1892574) | about 8 months ago | (#46049689)

I know I'm not supposed to feed the trolls, but...Half the white people in America wish they at least had the FREEDOM to leave the country. Do you know how hard it is to get a visa to ANYWHERE else until you've first established yourself high in your industry? We're at 1938 Germany xenophobia levels now & we've already invaded Poland AND Russia. I & every other person I know would love to move to Central America, buy an acre or two of land & build a house & just live, but they made it impossible to leave to even the neighboring countries without Papers Please, & now the racial superiorists are flooding in. WWIII is coming fast & it will be fought on everyones shores with only the deadliest of killer robots. Nice going, Mr. I'm Protecting White People From Der Juden Menace or whatever.

Not terribly hard... (1)

atari2600a (1892574) | about 8 months ago | (#46049581)

You just get last years tablets or e-readers or even chromebooks in bulk on clearance. That's half the work done. Now, start loading them up with screened dumps of Simple Wikipedia. You'll have alot of penis orgasm GIF's & Charles Manson pages & other weird shit to pull out yourself, but eventually you'll have a well-screened archive you can begin dumping on whatever devices you've stocked up on. This is how today's children learn. You may think it's frightening, or even wrong, but having lived the experience in the Elk Grove Unified School District (before I could get out legally at 16 w/ an equivalency test...I still mark that day as the day I escaped purgatory), there is absolutely NO better or even close-to-equivalent alternative that'll stretch minds faster than autistic kids on acid in the 1960s. Well...except for Khan Academy. Make sure to have that bookmarked on every web browser!

Why? (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 8 months ago | (#46049605)

"Foster innovation and technology." Why is this important in an elementary school? Why not focus first on reading and writing and mathematics and the arts?

Re:Why? (2)

twistedcubic (577194) | about 8 months ago | (#46050071)

In a word, funding. A school district might provide iPads for every student, while many teachers curiously have to provide their own paper for making photocopies. The "technology and shit" budget for K-12 and community colleges is infinite in comparison to budgets for basic fundamentals. If you want to get sustained funding for any program, it may help to disguise it in buzzwords like "innovative" and "21st century". Unfortunately, a lot of bullshit gets in this way.

Talk to these guys (1)

Reapman (740286) | about 8 months ago | (#46049627)

Not associated other then I live in the city - Haven't step foot in a library in over a decade, but with their Makerspace (3d printers, book printer, kid friendly toys to learn how circuits work, music making devices, etc), ebooks, etc I've become pretty impressed. Very forward thinking and friendly staff.

Edmonton Public Library http://www.epl.ca/ [www.epl.ca]

Elementary library (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049637)

Hello,

I would have a mix of mediums, books, computers and e-readers. You may want to check the Association for Library Service to Children website http://www.ala.org/alsc/ they have several lists on what you may want to stock in a library.

Guiding research. (0)

jellomizer (103300) | about 8 months ago | (#46049651)

Especially for elementary students, and even for doctorate students. Libraries need to be a place to help guide people in research, help filter out the Crap from the gems, offer access to stuff that people usually need to pay via a paywall to get access to. Peer reviewed Journals, New Paper sites that have a PayWall for archives...
Shared Bookmarks with other libraries to build a source of good information. Wikipedia is good starting point, but it isn't good research, as it can be altered and bias. Show people how to find and going threw the sources would be valuable.

Puzzles! (2)

xanthos (73578) | about 8 months ago | (#46049661)

Puzzles, puzzles and more puzzles! Number puzzles, word puzzles, shape puzzles! Tangram! Origami!

Things that make you think! Things that give you a sense of accomplishment when completed! Things that make you feel as smart as you are!

Because...

Basic+ (1)

Antoinette Jaycox (3510747) | about 8 months ago | (#46049669)

Library spaces are becoming collaborative spaces in university libraries across the United States. At the middle school and high school levels the libraries are being turned into collaborative maker spaces to encourage innovation and exploration of imagination among students. Elementary school libraries should encourage the students to begin thinking in a way that will help them to succeed at the secondary and post secondary level. Provide whiteboards, dry erase markers, tables with multiple electrical outlets so a group of children can bring the school's laptops to a table and work together. Provide instruction that supports the maker culture.

I call my suggestion Basic+ because you mention the students are from low-income families without basic high tech resources. So maybe instead of populating your collaborative makerspace with multiple 3-d printers, or any printers, you spend funds on laptops and give the options for students to rent flash drives to transport their work. Or better yet, partner with a cloud service where students can save their work until they can turn it in to their teachers via Blackboard or e-mail.

Advertising (4, Interesting)

flymolo (28723) | about 8 months ago | (#46049721)

Get a display space near the cafeteria or some other place where students go frequently. Put books there that are interesting to the students. Thor comics, Ender's game whatever the media is already advertising for you.

Talk to teachers and hold classes in the library occasionally so the kids feel comfortable there.
See if the school will add DVDs to the library's collection.

Get them there and they'll figure out how to use it, but you have to get them there.

If they can put meeting rooms in, so clubs can meet there that would be great as well.

Drop Dewey Decimal... (1, Interesting)

twistedcubic (577194) | about 8 months ago | (#46049739)

...if it's not too controversial. Research and find a better system, such as LOC or the like. Find some old smartphones to use as bar code readers with wifi capability connected to a Debian server running MariaDB or Postgresql. Dude! I can't wait to visit.

Treasure Hunt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049793)

With the web it's easy to find answers (not always correct) to your questions.

With a physical library it's easy to find questions.

Make a game of exploring the library and all its resources.

Don't re-imagine a children's library; instead, encourage children to re-imagine themselves.

Video games. (4, Interesting)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | about 8 months ago | (#46049801)

When i think back to my elementary school, there was only one reason to visit the library other than to check out books, and that was to play games on the computers.

We had games like Spellevator [wikipedia.org] Math Blaster [wikipedia.org] as well as some adventure game that constantly quizzed various knowledges that I can't for the life of me remember the name of.
(I wish I did because I never beat it and I'd love to go back and do such now)

The point is, there's many an educational game out there, and it's an easy way to get younger kids learning things they may not otherwise take interest in.

Categorize your books differently, sir (1, Interesting)

asliarun (636603) | about 8 months ago | (#46049815)

Libraries are so often categorized on Victorian assumptions that we are there to do serious stuff - academic pursuits, seeking knowledge, a scholarship, research and such claptrap. Nobody feels, emotes, thinks, imagines, or dreams that way. And nobody reads books that way either.

Books should be categorized on emotions, imagination, our interests and passions, our quirks, our pursuits and hobbies. Books should also be categorized on *how* we read a book, not always on *what* we read.

I really don't subscribe to the standard answers of finding technology answers to these kind of problems. Technology only helps us solve some problems better. But we first need to know what the problem is, and how we want to solve it in the first place.

The problem is that libraries are not aligned with how people think and feel. Libraries are instead aligned with how a certain people once thought that people should think and feel. Which is bollocks.

Consider taking a step back (1)

Krishnoid (984597) | about 8 months ago | (#46049861)

With the opportunity to reimagine a library, you might engage in a little 'alternate history' fiction. One option is to start with a perspective of why a library was created in the first place.

If home Internet/LAN/WIFI pre-dated the existence of the concept of a physical space that a library currently uses, what would the 'library' be invented to provide? A few ideas:

  • reading/research collaboration space -- get together to work on school assignments
  • white noise generators specially designed to keep collaboration sound down
  • access to documents and resources that cannot be made available over the internet -- non-functioning 3D artistic/STEM items for examination, perhaps not for use
  • ability to check out e-book readers and 'borrow' e-books within the wi-fi range of the library
  • ability to check out audiobooks, and maybe borrow listening devices while in the library
  • ability to use higher-end resources -- e.g., graphics tablets
  • other study-type resources that may not simply be books
  • traditional books

Rename it (2)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 8 months ago | (#46049867)

My suggestion would be to start by renaming the library to the "center for information and learning" or similar. Then it becomes clear this is a place that provides information resources to support the educational mission. "Library" these days implies "books," which to too many people implies "dusty, old, obsolete, and useless:" a recipe for getting your budget cut. :-)

What kinds of information resources do your kids need to support their education?

You said yourself, they don't all have Internet access at home, so a big lab of desktop machines is a good starting point.

Does your collection include DVDs and audio books? If not, you can start to develop that.

My employer has a small library with a magazine rack of several current trade publications. You could do the same, put a rack of educational magazines near the door and create a place with good lighting and some comfortable chairs for reading them.

Keep the books, of course. Books provide a depth of information that is hard to match online even today. However, do active collection management to purge the non-fiction books that are out of date. Nothing says "the library is obsolete" like a shelf full of science books from 1973.

I would also suggest some kind of outreach effort, say a newsletter or blog pointing out some new, free enrichment resources kids can find online (including YouTube videos), what's cool on PBS this month, and what new books you've added to the collection. Maybe ask some teachers and students to write reviews of books and media they would recommend.

Libraries as the Start of an Adventure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049935)

I would suggest that you view the library as a starting place.

My high school ('97-'01) actually gave up its library and let the public library system come in and open a branch. In theory it was a great idea that didn't work out for other reasons (school wasn't open to the public often, it was 3/4 of a mile from the closest road, etc).

One of the school systems my children attend had its own staff as the librarian, but all the content were a part of the public library system. This meant that if a teacher had the whole class read a book, they could just borrow it from the library and the system as a whole had a much easier time having that volume of books on hand. It also meant that if they read an exert from a book, the library would make sure to have other books in that series or by that author available for the children. Best of all, it meant that I could see what my children were reading by logging into their account (all parents had to have access). It also meant my children could "reserve" books and instead of me taking them to the library, they could choose their school as the branch and their home room teacher would give them the book. They encouraged parents to do the same thing assuming the book wasn't too inappropriate for children on the theory that if children saw their parents reading it would encourage them to. You could also reserve other media (mp3 players, cd's, dvd's, even Wii Games etc) so if my daughter was well behaved, worked hard on home work, and read a book outside of school assignments, I'd typically let her get a movie on Friday. All without my having to drive to the library; if she finished with something and wanted a new one, we could easily go to the library. If we checked something out and needed to return it, I could just stick it in her backpack.

The library there was also really well designed; it felt like you were walking into a book store or a music store etc; I typically have a hard time finding books i'm interested in, with that location it was always hard to limit my choices to a small enough collection I could easily actually consume them. It was on a bike path and very much aimed to be a cool spot to hang out (even having video game tournaments).

Four years ago we decided to buy, so I moved to a poor section of the city and have a different school/library system. The libraries here though have all the text books used in the surrounding public school districts (we have over 170 just in our county). They also have common materials (paper, pens, pencils, scissors, crayons, etc) and volunteers (for when parents don't have time, aren't willing too, or honestly can't help). Granted, you're talking more about a school library then a public library, but I would imagine extended hours with supplies and volunteers could have a significant impact and you may qualify for some of the same grants.

Finally, try to do what you can to spark curiosity. The main branch of our public library has a state for puppets; they will do some shows, but most of them time its children putting on their own shows. The view the library as a fun place and it sparks the imaginative play that research says is important for early literacy. It also helps entertain while older siblings use the library for more traditional purposes.

Some things to avoid:
Our school library will just tolerate lost books; the downside is instead of being up front, children miss recess, they invoice parents, etc but then when called out on it they lie. When budget cut came, the librarians were first to go partly because no parents trusted them (they claimed they never punished nor threatened punishment, yet my daughter missed over a month's recess over a book they misplaced).

Contrast with our public library, has a program where you can read for an hour to take $x off of your account (for late fees, lost books, etc). They can read books, wikipedia, newspapers, magazines, etc; while aimed at children, adult can use it also which is helpful for low income people.

Good luck!

Make it an interactive experience (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 8 months ago | (#46049937)

Focus on turning the library into a social center. If you have the resources, set up a game lab where kids can come in and play. Have reading competitions with GOOD prizes for winners. Focus not on classics but the books kids are into even if that means putting Harry Potter titles out in front of Catcher in the Rye. Let clubs use the library as a place to meet if you have private rooms. If there are none, asthe kids that age what they do for fun. Maybe set up a game playing lunch hour or afterschool event for a popular title. You might even need to make separate, smaller, quiet reading areas and let the main areas be for louder, boisterous activities.

A big part of what you're doing is getting people in the door FIRST; and I think you're going to have to compromise on the traditional ideas of a library to do it.

Resource Centre (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46049947)

Apart from books (yes, the paper kind), go for a museum kind of thing. Have caterpillers so the kids can see them turn into butterflies. A fishtank with tropical fish. Have some interesting minerals, a slice of tree so they can see the rings. Throw in some arts and crafts, along with the things kids used to make. Whilst on the subject of history, how about slates, old style desk (with inkwells), old telephones (and string and tin can telephones), hand wound nail-and-wire electric motors, a camera obscura.

Make it tactile. Make it a place of inspiration and wonder. A place which is noisy with the sound of kids discovering their own wonder at the richness of the world.

And it doesn't need to be expensive, You can get stuff from donations from old people. Hey, you can even get the kids to make a lot of displays. Imagine a school where the kids can look at the library with pride and say "I helped make that". You might even find you'll end up with citizens who like to be involved with life and the community if you can get them to have fun in the place.

make sure it functions as a Library first! (2)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 8 months ago | (#46049967)

have computers and such in a "study" area but have Yee Olde Shelves of Books

For "fun" you may want to have a "Blackout Day" where all of the computers are turned OFF so they have to have learned how to work with actual BOOKS.

Remind students of the importance... (1)

kaizendojo (956951) | about 8 months ago | (#46049975)

of materials from verifiable and curated sources. Bring relevancy back to the library by making sure students understand that just because it's "on the Internet" that doesn't necessarily make it true. That's a place where books and encyclopedias still hold relevancy. Teach your students how to curate and verify their own sources so that when they DO have access, they know the difference. That will set them apart from the students from the 'higher-income' schools who were just turned loose on Google by some bored librarian who didn't care as much.

Books (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46050031)

It's an elementary school, put books in it. And, almost more importantly, a good librarian. There's no technological substitute for the inspiring advice of an adult when it comes to promoting reading among children.

My Local Library (1)

Shomra (3203809) | about 8 months ago | (#46050047)

It's hard to say for a school library, but my local library has done a very nice job re-inventing itself.
Here are some of the aspects that seem to work well for us.

- Public meeting space
- Multiple levels of programming (senior, teen, ...)
- A maker space area with production and 3D printing capabilities
- Quasi day-care areas
- Social areas with coffee/snacks
- Multi-generational events
- Invited speakers on special topics
- Continuing education classes

Actually, it's possible that school libraries could just become cooperatives with
some other local resource such as a university or local library, or that the school
becomes a resource for other than just school children.

Make a space for a competent librarian (3, Insightful)

Hjalmar (7270) | about 8 months ago | (#46050193)

Speaking as a librarian, the single best thing you can do is budget for a librarian after you recreate the library as an technology explorer and innovation space, or whatever it is you have in mind.

You can stuff the room full of computers, but if there isn't someone there with the special expertise in dealing with this user population, all that will happen is the space will be wasted.

How To Reimagine a Library? Very Simple (2)

lorinc (2470890) | about 8 months ago | (#46050255)

Design a clean API and stick to well known coding standards.

This is /., no need to read more than the title.

Computers with only Zork and Lynx (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 8 months ago | (#46050265)

Make them actually learn something while using the computers. Most library catalogs can be accessed with lynx anyways, and Zork will at least force them to read and write.

reimagine it with funding and a librarian (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46050281)

Since you are tasked with reimagining the school library and don't know who to ask, your school obviously lacks funding and a librarian. The first thing to do is get funding from anywhere you can: grants, awards, sponsorship--anything. You need your school to hire at least a part time school librarian--they are teachers and librarians, and they will help kids learn to work with information and develop critical thinking skills.These are the skills needed to have a chance at being successful in contemporary society. These are skills they wont learn elsewhere because we keep teachers too busy preparing students for the next standardized test.

A qualified school librarian and functioning library account for up to 20% of the variability in student achievement. See more research at the American Association of School Librarians [ala.org]

  Low-income students are already academically disadvantaged. Don't make it worse by going along with plans to gut whatever your administrators deem "unnecessary." Think about it::rich kids are browsing books, using tablets, using computers to play on the web, watching and creating videos, and checking out laptops at their school libraries. They are learning to be curious about the world and investigate it--becoming internally motivated to learn. Your kids need a working library more than other students precisely because they are low-income and wont otherwise have these opportunities. So stuff that place with all the donated books and computers you can get.

Don't expect your students to catch up with their peers later, after society has already given up on them. Bother anyone who will listen you about this, and don't back down.

There's no struggle for school libraries to remain relevant. They help kids learn the most essential skills for today's world. The return on investment is high. The only struggle is to keep society from divesting from kids' futures.

Creation, not just consumption (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 8 months ago | (#46050321)

I totally agree with everyone about books, lots of books. Still a good thing, kids still read real books all over even if they have tablets.

But if you are talking about ways to make a library better, what about more heavily helping to promote the idea of content creation rather than just consumption?

A library is about knowledge, why should it not also be about aiding others in sharing knowledge?

Here I'm thinking:

1) Writing classes, either during school or after hours (or both).

2) Book making classes, as in how to bind a book with photos you bring in or pages that you print on library printers.

3) 3D printing stuff possibly?? Possibly too early for that yet.

4) Equipment to help the kids shoot videos they can save onto some kind of school S3 account, with green-sceen backdrops, a few props and tables/chairs along with computers with video editing software. (and by "computers" I mean an iMac or two unless you want to spend a LOT of time administering them).

Betteridge's law of headlines (1)

chris200x9 (2591231) | about 8 months ago | (#46050329)

No.
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